Silently, I walk through the grasses. Thinking. And thinking. I began this quest 5 years ago with a Manakin. This challenge grew into something bigger than me and so began the expedition of the heart and mind. A newbie. Everything fresh. Everything strange.
I was doing my annual survey of the Cactus Wrens around their various locations. BUT, I wanted something juicy and challenging. So I made some side treks to make it all happen. They were million dollar birds for cheep:)
Brown birds. Lots and lots of brown birds fascinate me. A flock of Brewer's Blackbirds hang near a bush. One flies into the shadows of a larger Ocotillo.
|Micheal makes a convincing Turkey Vulture but strangely he doesn't like leftovers|
Everything I have done; I have done my myself. That doesn't mean I've done it alone, quite the contrary. There have been countless people who I would call "teachers". Without their guidance and training, I wouldn't be where I am now. I refer, of course, to my own planning and studies with others. Currently, I am researching the Spotted Dove. Recently through my work with California birders, I found out that there is a healthy population of Spotted Doves on Catalina Island. Before they could only be found in a nasty neighborhood of LA which birders have said is NOT ideal for birding. So I like safe and scenic. It should be an easy find. And to be honest, it should be a wonderful vacation. So in a month, we leave for Avalon and I can't wait to continue my work on the Pacific Ocean.
No educational institution taught me how to speak Spanish or be a teacher or be a birder. For the first two titles, they certainly charged money for it. Lots and lots of money. Degrees are no more than pieces of paper. And in the end, it means absolutely nothing. It's what you bring to the table. For my students, I tell them to take control of their education. A degree in Spanish means nothing if you don't speak Spanish. LIVE in a Spanish speaking country. Theories and books won't make you a teacher. You are born one or not. So volunteer and work with people for EXPERIENCE.
|I wish this one has turned out better but I was excited seeing the bird. Next time I will be much more relaxed.|
|My first spot|
Distance was important. We were close enough with our binos yet far enough away to not disturb the bird. And that's what I remembered from our first observation as it was an issue. At least for me. One group would get too close and flush the bird into another field much further away. While I may have had my lifer Sprague's Pipit last year, I felt for the first time that I EARNED my bird. It's a pretty special feeling. But even better? Helping someone find their nemesis bird while enjoying wonderful observations of a naturally very secretive bird in the field.
|Cattle "helping us" find/flush our lonspurs:)|
While it wasn't planned, I met up with another birder who had been there for an hour trying to locate the longspurs. We dealt with extreme wind and dust. Other birders were there and it was interesting to watch the various individuals. Some wanted the "gimme" lifer but didn't help at all with the search. Others simply gave up and left. But if you give yourself up completely to the moment, anything is possible. Forget about home, forget about work, forget about the sunset:) Just be in the moment. Become the flock. Forget the stinging dust. The frigid wind. And the glaring sun. Just focus on the energy that is "the flock". My watering eyes did hurt after the observations (which was then followed by a headache), but it was worth the intense search.
|McCown's Longspurs-overall a rather dull bird. For Arizona birders, this is a Master's level bird.|
|Random Slider Turtle photo|
While none of this is easy work; it has become a simpler task. Understanding a simple word like "warbler" or "longspur" will usually imply certain behaviors and often involve a headache later on:) After an hour of cracked dry lips, sore eyes and being all covered in dust, it was time to go home. The mission complete. It was exciting. The way I imagine a final exam to be in the field studies of AZ Ornithology. I heard one birder say, "It's what separates the boys from the men." And I'm guessing the girls from women? The birds from the birders?:) I'll just restate it in my own geeky way, "I passed this Jedi test."
|Renee, a creative and funny soul who loved Star Trek as much as I do.|
|Chestnut-collared Longspurs in Willcox, AZ|
Meanwhile our Jaguar roams the Santa Rita mountain range. Our secret was released by National Geographic just a couple weeks ago. Hopefully with our combined efforts from all the conservation groups, we will help bring once common wildlife back into our area. The Jaguar is a wonderful example of what could be once again if we are not reckless.
|At the Buenos Aires Wildlife Refuge with Bruce Berman|